It was not his repudiation of small thinking that struck me. It was the fact that here we had an American politician speaking with both candor and compassion about the proverbial elephant in our national living room.
It's funny, but I found myself thinking of the same "elephant in the room" image while listening to the speech.
Years ago I was a member of a political group whose focus was on body image/fat acceptance activism. I proposed that we host a public discussion group on a series of other, related, body image issues that hold women back. I got no resistance when I suggested that we include women with disabilities, but the room fell silent when I suggested that one of the discussions, entitled "Beyond Blue Eyes," deal with issues of the white beauty standard and how it affects women of color. The objection? "We might offend somebody." I argued passionately that the real offense would be leaving the issue out and sweeping it under the rug. We had the discussion and it went really well. It turned out that women of color were dying to finally have a place to talk about this issue.
Liberal white people may not have the active prejudice of other white people, but our fear of being thought racist can sometimes hold us back from speaking out or doing the right thing in an emotionally risky situation. Silence seems safe--but it is destroying our society. All of these isms--racism, classism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, looksism, and others--flourish in silence, unchallenged.
It's time to speak up.